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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Barcelona primed to outbattle Chelsea

Five-time winners can book a place in quarter-finals

Eden Hazard of Chelsea in action against Barcelona
1 of 1

Champions League last 16 second leg
BT Sport 2, 7.45pm Wednesday

Barcelona can join fellow European heavyweights Real Madrid and Juventus in the Champions League quarter-finals by defeating Chelsea in a high-scoring contest.

The five-times winners were stung into action by Willian's 62nd- minute goal after a cagey start to the 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge in the first leg.

Barca showed more intent in the final 30 minutes, levelling the tie with a typically clinical Lionel Messi finish, and they are likely to play in a similar fashion from the start of the second leg, setting the tone for a more exciting encounter.

Barcelona will be respectful of Chelsea - they haven't beaten the Blues in the teams' last eight meetings - but should have total confidence in their ability to dominate at Camp Nou, where they are unbeaten in their last 24 Champions League games, winning 22 of them. 

Chelsea almost pulled off a tactical masterclass in London, defending with discipline and causing Barca problems on the counter-attack.

Barcelona team profile

Chelsea team profile

Champions League stats

Antonio Conte's approach is unlikely to change and Barcelona could be vulnerable to the pace and movement of Willian and Eden Hazard.

Chelsea will expect to have less of the ball but their midfielders are unlikely to be as passive as they were in the 1-0 Premier League loss at Manchester City.

Without the ill N'Golo Kante Chelsea did not have the tools to compete with City in the middle of the park.

With Kante back in the side Chelsea should play a little higher up the pitch and can look to win the ball in areas from where they can spring dangerous attacks.

Barca could be vulnerable and might concede against a Blues side who have found the net on nine of their last 11 Champions League road trips.

An away goal would give Chelsea a huge boost but might not be enough to turn the tide in their favour.

Barcelona are without two of their regular La Liga starters - the ineligible Philippe Coutinho and the injured Andres Iniesta.

But the team will still be packed with top-level experience and spearheaded by Messi and Luis Suarez, who are the leading scorers in La Liga this season and arguably the most potent front two in world football.

Messi had gone through a five-match goalscoring drought before the away leg but showed nerves of steel when presented with a single opportunity in London. He also found the net in each of his next three appearances, scoring twice in the 6-1 success at home to Girona and once in a 1-1 draw at Las Palmas and a 1-0 triumph at home to Atletico Madrid.

Suarez is Barca's top scorer in 2018, netting 14 goals in 17 appearances, but he has not yet registered in this season's Champions League.

However, the Uruguayan is odds-on to score at any time against Chelsea and looks a likely candidate on a night when goals could flow, most of them past Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Barcelona to win and both teams to score
1pt 2-1 general

Bet on this match at

Team news
Nelsinho and Andres Iniesta (both hamstring) are likely to miss out and Philippe Coutinho is ineligible for Champions League selection.

Ross Barkley (hamstring) and David Luiz (knee and ankle) miss out but Tiemoue Bakayoko (calf) returned as a substitute at the weekend.

Key stat
Chelsea have scored in 11 of their last 12 Champions League matches.

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Barcelona are unbeaten in their last 24 Champions League games at Camp Nou, winning 22 of them
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